Kean University Industrial Design Grad Wins Top National Award

Recent Kean industrial design graduate Emma Mantell ’19 is one of five regional winners of the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) Student Merit Award, the highest national student award of the professional organization.

“This is the most prestigious award in the U.S. for a student, the institution, and the faculty in the industrial design field. Almost all of the previous winners’ careers skyrocketed after this event,” said Efecem Kutuk, assistant professor and program coordinator of industrial design at Robert Busch School of Design in Michael Graves College. “We are very proud of Emma and hope her success will serve as a model for other students in the college.”

According to reports, Mantell was inspired to create the two-part winning design, in part, by her grandmother’s accessibility challenges as she aged. One project, called esa, uses technology to design a door lock, door handle and key chain to assist the elderly and users with motor skills limitations. The other, called Prana, is a breast shield device and app that measures milk flow from nursing mothers to their babies.

“This is an incredibly prestigious award, and I’m incredibly honored,” Mantell said. She said both projects were conceptualized in class, designed to meet users’ needs and guided by professors.

The name of the first project, esa, stands for “ease, style and accessibility, ” reports say. The other, Prana, is named for a Buddhist hand gesture that represents life-giving energy. “It’s something I thought relates perfectly to nursing,” Mantell said.

Reports say that Mantell, who is from Vernon, will present at the International Design Conference in Chicago in August, where she will have the chance to network with more than 400 professionals. Her name will also be featured on the IDSA’s website for years to come.

Kutuk, who taught Mantell almost every semester while at Kean, said she worked hard, took feedback and exceeded standards throughout her education.

“Both projects can be considered technological designs for the social good, not just another beautiful, meaningless object, but problem-solving ones,” he said.

Mantell said she looks forward to presenting at the conference, and pursuing her career goals. She said she chose to attend Kean because she wanted smaller classes and opportunities to be involved with other design students, as well as taking advantage of the campus’ access to New York City.

Mantell chose industrial design because she felt it integrated aspects of both art and science that she enjoyed, according to reports. Mantell said she ultimately hopes to work in an environment with “plenty of variety and collaboration.”

“A job that would allow me to meet and work alongside lots of new people would be ideal for helping me to build a greater perspective that will aid me in growing as a designer,” she said. “Honestly, my career goals are constantly evolving.”